Sponsorship deal comes in the nick of time for Alex Thomson, but he's got a major refit to do in just six weeks

The ‘home team’ for the Vendée Globe has had a huge boost with the news that Alex Thomson finally has a sponsor for his Open 60 campaign. The deal has allowed him to start a major refit on his boat, formerly Roland Jourdian’s Sill, just in the nick of time. The race starts in November and the fleet has to assemble in the start port of Les Sables d’Olonne in the second week of October.

The deal is with “a very sexy global brand” and will be officially announced in September. It carry on until the end of 2005. “It is someone we have been talking to for a long time, but the timing had to be right,” says Thomson. He will not reveal the amount involved. He was originally seeking £2 million , but now admits: “It’s round about what we needed. We will have to work very hard with the money, but that’s the way it should be.”

Thomson sounds delighted – and relieved. His campaign started with a flourish when he bought the boat last year and raced in the Transat Jacques Vabre with Roland Jourdain, finishing 3rd, then served a tremendous ace with a new solo 24-hour record on the single-handed race back to Europe. Negotiations with a previous company got to the stage of a letter of intent, then collapsed, and subsequently lack of funds stalled the project. Thomson has been able to do little racing since and was (perhaps luckily) unable to do the Transat.

Now, however, the campaign is at full ahead. The boat is at JMV Industries in Cherbourg, which has a long record of Open 60 builds and refits, and the work is being project managed by Josh Hall. “We’re going to have complete servicing,” says Thomson. “The keel comes out today and will be checked. We’ll have new boards and new sails, we’re looking at adjusting the sail configuration, altering the lengths of the stays and the rake of the mast, rewiring and fitting new instrumemnts, putting in new ballast and replacing a lot of stuff like for like – all in six weeks.”

The work is ambitious but not revolutionary, he insists. “You’ve got to be quite realistic. I want the world, but there’s no point in having the world if it doesn’t work properly or if I can’t sail it.”

For his own part, Thomson is going to concentrate on fitness, media training and “learning some French”.